In the bag: UNT alum crafts handbags and accessories

In the bag: UNT alum crafts handbags and accessories

In the bag: UNT alum crafts handbags and accessories
February 24
19:51 2014

Morgan Gentry // Staff Writer

When she returned to Denton with hopes to expand her fashion line, Project 4.30, “bags for work, play and travel” is what UNT Alumnus Ari Jones had in mind

After graduating from UNT last August with a fashion design degree, Jones contemplated a move to Austin but eventually cemented Denton as her permanent location to further develop her accessories line. With thoughtful designs featuring an array of patterns and masculine lines with a feminine twist, her Project 4.30 line is picking up steam in little D.

“I really like the trend of masculine bags, but I feel like my goal is to make utility feminine and I work a lot of feminist ideals into the way I design,” Jones said. “So pockets aren’t just for men and pretty colors shouldn’t just be designed, they should be functional.”

She mixes all of those things together with a personal essence that she often gravitates toward when deciding on patterns, detail and colors.

Handcrafted wallets, tote bags, duffle bags, clutches and even laptop cases have been part of Project 4.30’s collection since its 2011 launch.

Starting off as a side project for friends, pieces from her bag line have already been sold on Etsy, numerous festivals in both Denton and Austin, along with the DIME store and Scrap Denton off the square.

How it started 

Jones grew up sewing, taking classes in elementary and teaching herself how to make clothes. She sold her first bag at the age of 17 to purchase tickets to Kanye West’s “Glow in the Dark” Tour.  She continued to sell bags and her designs evolved, but it wasn’t until she reached college that she put function into form.

“I saw that all my friends were just schlumping around their stuff, like dragging them across Texas with laundry baskets and plastic bags full of clothes,” Jones said.

She thought to herself, “I need duffle bags that are as stylish as my friends,” and that’s when she decided to produce her own products.

Academic sewing courses with piles of monotonous homework and nerve-racking critiques drained Jones’ creative juices at times, but she used her creations to put her sewing skills to practice without the work feeling like homework.

In college, she kept producing bags for friends and creating her independently owned line, all while being burnt out from fashion design courses. During this time, professors and classes that had nothing to do with fashion surprisingly influenced Jones.

“When I took my history courses, specifically with Dr. Calderon [Mexican American History professor], I just got to focus on that and got a new avenue of creativity because history is really just a release for me,” Jones said. “It seems kind of backwards but being able to focus on history and learning that stuff with him opened a lot of creative flow in my design process.”

Why Denton over Austin?

After graduating, Jones had her heart set on moving back to her hometown of Austin. Known for its quirky, innovative scene and creative outlets, she knew it would be the best place to expand.

However, after a weekend trip right before her move, Jones had a change of heart and a feeling of disownment.

“It’s not the Austin I grew up in,” Jones said. “Everybody enjoys it but I don’t enjoy the same things about it. There’s a lot of gentrification going on in the neighborhood I’m from and that’s very hard to deal with emotionally.”

As a native Austinite and a self-described hip person, it was weird and it hurt to be there, she added.

Jones feels that Denton actually cultivates a more creative and innovative community than Austin and plans to stay in town with her fiance, while expanding the line.

What’s next?

Waxed canvas handbags, and heavy-duty items, more duffle bags, tote bags, wallets, general leather goods and even reusable grocery bags are what customers should expect in the near future.

“Sometimes I find myself questioning things like whether or not they look good,” Jones said. “I realize that if I just pick the things I like it will just make it sound aesthetic—flawless mostly.”

Her customers see no problem in how she chooses her patterns, products and quality.

Avid customer and good friend of Jones, communication design senior Megan Anderson, owns three of Jones’ bags and really loves them.

“They are really well-structured and always have really awesome fabric prints,” Anderson said. “I use one of mine as a briefcase everyday for work and it has held up great.”

The quality of her products is a priority to Jones and as well as her service.  Anderson mentioned how great her service was when a buckle broke on one of her purses.

The bags don’t just resonate with Anderson. The owners of the DIME store said that many of their customers also mention the quality.

Raving about how adorable Jones is and how they consider her a friend, DIME Store owner Shelley Christner felt that it was only right they worked together.

“She puts so much work into those [duffle bags] and all the pockets and zippers and her attention to detail,” Christner said. “We’ve worked with Ari through our shows that we have a couple times a year and loved what she did [so it] was just a natural thing to have her work in here.”

Pulling inspiration from others who independently own lines and trying something new, Jones plans to continue building Project 4.30 with an outlet for home goods and in 10 years from now, furniture.

“I love it so much,” Jones said. “And now I’m just doing projects like reupholstering chairs for friends.”

Feature photo: Fashion design graduate Ari Jones designs and hand makes all of her bags. Her line of fashion bags originally started off as pet project for school and was inspired to continue it further. Photo by Kelsey Littlefield / Staff Photographer 

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